When this public servant is recognized for the achievement by his peers who do the same type of work in their own government jurisdictions, it is an even greater honor.
When this public servant is pinpointed a second time for his innovative ways by those same peers, it is genuinely the greatest of honors.
No award is more deserved than those given to an individual by his or her peers; that is, those who understand the quality of the work because they are familiar, through their own practices, with its importance to people ... especially taxpayers.
We refer, of course, to Bradley County Trustee Mike Smith, a native Bradley Countian who served the constituents of his district for 16 years on the Bradley County Commission before moving on to another elected role where his forward-thinking approach could benefit even more local residents. Elected trustee in 2006, Smith has spent the last seven years in this respected Courthouse role orchestrating new taxpaying practices that can best benefit the people who need the help the most — Bradley County taxpayers.
Last month, Smith was named recipient of the Trustee of the Year Award for the East Tennessee Division. The honor was bestowed upon him by more than 30 fellow trustees from across the state’s eastern end. In a formal session held July 15, the Bradley County Commission honored Smith for this latest recognition. It came with a presentation by County Commission Chairman Louis Alford.
If all this sounds oddly familiar, it should. Smith earned the same East Division award — as voted by his trustee peers from across the eastern region — for the first time in 2009.
Why? It is because this popular elected official — who was sent to the Courthouse office by the entire county and not just one district — has taken actions that reach out to taxpayers at all levels, and especially to those who find it difficult to pay a single lump-sum property tax bill once each year.
We have written about it before. We will write about it again. That’s because this partial property tax payment plan is being embraced by Bradley County residents who need the convenience of making “installment” payments on their homes and land.
It is important to remember that just because an area resident owns his home and property — or is still making mortgage payments on them — it is not a sign that life is a cruise down Easy Street. Sometimes this is furthest from the truth.
Homeowners, like anyone else, sometimes need help and that help comes in the form of paying their taxes over a 12-month period instead of an annual lump sum. This is especially true of the elderly, many of whom no longer have the spending power they did during their working years. It also includes families who own their homes or who are still paying for them, but who are down on their luck due to unforeseen events like heavy maintenance or repair expenses, or catastrophic illness.
Smith’s iconic partial payment plan helps to lift a tremendous once-a-year burden from the tired shoulders of these groups.
But other programs like state tax relief and county tax freeze — initiatives that Smith’s office has influenced directly and indirectly — are also benefits to local residents. Each is another example of why East Tennessee trustees respect the Bradley Countian’s work.
He has also invested the county’s money well, and he understands the value of area banks that have given him favorable interest rates to breed such healthy revenue.
To Smith’s credit, he doesn’t take the full credit. He recognizes the input of his staff and he is the first to acknowledge the good work of other trustees across Tennessee whose own innovative actions have led to his decision to custom such practices here.
Bradley County is privileged, and blessed, to have such public servants working on our people’s behalf.
We congratulate Mike for this latest award, and we thank him for keeping the needs of Bradley County taxpayers on the front burner each day, every week, throughout the year and in all decisions.